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Simplifying in Figure Drawing

Soft pastel on manilla

We drew a female model at Studio b. this week at the regular weekly figure drawing session.  She’s been there before.  She is challenging to draw well because she is so fit and toned.

Depending on the pose, sometimes it seems like the model has 6 or 7 legs and arms and at least 40 fingers.  Drawn wrong, they become grotesque victims of some horrible farming accident.  But drawn correctly, they of course help to convey the totality of the expression of the pose.

Some artists never draw the hands or feet, thereby avoiding the issue altogether.

I know how to draw fingers and toes, but I don’t know how to draw them quickly.  So I couldn’t believe my good fortune when the model presented me with a pose that from my vantage point, barely showed just two fingers underneath her hair, and no toes, or even feet, for that matter.  What luxury, to spend the entire half hour on the stretch of the figure!  I have posted it below at right.  Click here for very large view.

Graphite and nupastel on Stonehenge

Our warm-up drawings were 1-minute and 5-minute poses.  For all the craftsmanship in a finished drawing, the hurried execution of a warm-up gesture can have more appeal because it captures the artist’s immediate impression without a lot of correction.  Simplification is  requisite — there is no time for details.  Above left is one of my warm-up gestures from this session.

The problem with warm-up gestures is that they are usually drawn on inexpensive paper that will fade or yellow or even fall apart over time, so they are not collectible unless you spend a little money on archival framing, with ultraviolet resistant glass.  I have redrawn gesture drawings on better quality paper, but it is difficult to duplicate because the rushed immediacy is impossible to recreate.  Since we often draw 15 or 20 warm-up drawings before settling into longer poses, the use of cheap paper is a matter of economics.  The manilla paper and the gray bogus paper I use for gesture drawings are less than 15¢ a sheet, while  Canson Edition paper is $2.19 a sheet, and Canson Rives is closer to $4.07 a sheet.  Even Stonehenge is $1.65 a sheet, so you can see that it could quickly take the artist to the poorhouse to use quality paper for warm-up drawings.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot

2 thoughts on “Simplifying in Figure Drawing

  1. That drawing on Stonehenge is marvelous. I especially love the highlights and the face is wonderful. I wish I had the patience (and talent) to draw like that – well done!

  2. Thank you, Robin! One of the artists last week was mentioning that she had to draw for a while before she felt like she was into the “wave”, which is when what you see flows through you and out your pencil, without a lot of conscious thought. I felt like I was in that wave during this drawing.

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